S. Florida benefits from Malaysia mission

By Doreen Hemlock
Business Writer
Posted March 10 2005

A just-concluded Florida business mission to Malaysia netted at least two major deals: The government of Malaysia plans to open a trade office in Broward County, and Nova Southeastern University will develop education programs in the Southeast Asian nation.

Talks also have begun for Fort Lauderdale's International Warehouse Services to offer port services in Malaysia, while the Florida Space Authority is looking to bring Malaysians to the United States for education exchange programs, participants in the Feb. 25-March 6 mission said Wednesday.

"This is only going to be the beginning," said Bernhard Schutte, chief executive of Digital Media Network Inc., who operates a business in Malaysia and organized the nearly 40-member Florida mission. "We're going back in about six to eight weeks for a follow-up on other pending projects."

Perhaps most promising short-term are plans for the Malaysian trade office, apparently the first foreign trade office be located in Broward. Dozens already operate in Miami-Dade County.

The Malaysian government is seeking about 7,000 square feet near Interstate 95 for the office that also would serve as a showroom for Malaysian products such as electronics and processed foods. The office would serve not only the Southeast but also the Caribbean and Latin American region, Schutte said.

A former British colony of 25 million people, multicultural Malaysia has transformed its economy since the 1970s from production of raw materials such as rubber and tin into a major manufacturer, especially of electronics.

The government now is targeting growth in telecom, information technology and biotech to move the nation beyond its middle-income rank. Officials are keen to develop education programs from U.S.-accredited universities.

Nova Southeastern hopes to start executive education classes in Malaysia this fall, with additional programs in 2006, said President Ray Ferrero Jr., who headed NSU's team on the trip. Classes would be taught in English by visiting NSU faculty.

Ferrero said Malaysia's government has been courting NSU for months. The country's ambassador in Washington, D.C., visited the Davie campus for talks. And in Malaysia, the minister of education helped organize a two-hour meeting for NSU with about 25 leaders of private universities to discuss potential partnerships.

"They have decided that because of their position between India and China, they are going to be a knowledge-based, tech-based economy, and because of their access, they can bring a lot of students in from other countries," Ferrero said.

Meanwhile, a Miami-Dade team led by County Commissioner Jose Pepe Diaz is visiting Malaysia this month as part of a business mission that also includes China.

Doreen Hemlock can be reached at 305-810-5009.